I would like to agree with most of what has been said. Isn't it great to get to hear from folks who use their horses for work on here ?
This is where NH was invented and developed, from those who needed their horses to be good at a job.
A large part of the history of this development can be found in Dr Robert Millers book "The Revolution in Horsemanship". Might be a good place for AnrewPL to look for some PhD reading.
I also agree that many many folks who start NH come to it after problems with modern training. (As NH has a written history going back to 434BC I prefer to call it traditional horsemanship not the modern, since around 1870, method most think of as traditional). We certainly did when our horse Bonitao would buck into every canter.
Many folks like the fluffy bunny approach to NH, but this is not what it is all about. I think this idea has partially come about as the clinicians, like Pat, are a bit scared of putting the actual methods of NH on DVD for all the negative publicity it produces. One view of a NH being firm with a horse and the antis are shouting "abuse", largely ignoring the dressage horses with blood coming out of their sides in warm up rings all over the country at shows every weekend. I've seen it, but that is just "getting respect".
It was only when I started training with James Roberts (a former Pat P protégée) that I started to understand true NH. We actually termed it "No Nonsense Horsemanship"
. It was using all the stuff we had learned from DVDs and other instructors but was more effective. I was watching a man, who made his profession out of backing young horses and helping troubled horses, ply his trade. This is much more in the manner that NH was originally developed. Pat claims to have started around 20,000 horses himself when he worked for one of the biggest horse dealerships in the USA and that is where he developed his ideas, with large doses of input from the former great horsemen.
This approach appeals to me. It is a professional approach. I love my horses dearly. I went through hell for 2 1/2 years trying to get the ownership of Filly, and now nobody can take her from me EVER. But when I am working with her, now James is in horsemans heaven, I feel he is sitting on my shoulder and watching me with a professional eye. I don't want to disappoint. "Soft as possible, firm as necessary" is a good phrase.
Going back to my original paragraph James would always ask new students what "job" they were training their horses and themselves for. It didn't matter what it was. Cow work, dressage, jumping, racing, or just hacking out. The horse needed a purpose and we needed to know what it was. Without that purpose (or multiple ones) how can we possibly "play" with our horses with structure and meaning.
One last though. I watched a Pat P online video yesterday. He said one of the biggest differences people can make to their attitudes is to stop thinking of themselves as riders, and start thinking of themselves as horsemen.
Riders ride and that is their mental emphasis.
Horsemen have a wider view of their relationship with horses and put more emphasis, mentally, into every aspect of horse handling. I aspire to be a horseman. I take pride in the way I put a halter or saddle on, how I lead the horse to and from the field with a forward walk etc.
I like to try and act professional even if I don't make money from horses (rather the opposite
) much as I do around both the B767 I fly as a pilot and the glider I race for my other sport. I keep my part of the barn tidy, halter neatly tied up and hung up, saddles clean. This is important to me to maintain a professional approach to horses and means that all the little things cease to be a chore and become a part of the whole experience of handling and caring for these wonderful creatures.